José Elías, the neighborhood guarantor of Joan Laporta

The businessman José Elías has come to the rescue of the president of Barça, Joan Laporta, to “fulfill the promise” made to a friend. Six years ago, when he joined the renewable energy company chaired by Elías – the listed Audax – Eduard Romeu asked for the impossible: a salary of half a million a year, living in a hotel and going to work every day by taxi. Elías said no to everything. Except for one thing: if Romeu, the financier who will presumably take the economic reins of the club, managed to get the company to exceed 1,000 million in the stock market, then Elías would do everything possible for him to fulfill his dream of being a Barça manager.

Elías has lent, from his personal assets, about 35 of the 124 million endorsement that Laporta needed to take over the presidency. It is the latest gesture in a game that began to be played months ago, when the 44-year-old businessman tested the candidates to replace Josep Maria Bartomeu. “I don’t like to lose even the marbles, so we had to go with the winner. And we bet on Laporta, who was also the best option for Barça ”, says in conversation with EL PAÍS Elías, culé and a Barça partner, although not so much as to “not sleep if the team loses.”

A self-made businessman from humble origins (his father was an electrician) who was born in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Badalona has come to Laporta’s aid: Sant Crist. “Sometimes the miracle happens,” he says about his career: from an apprentice plumber to the owner of 66% of the shares of an electric power production empire. Elías, separated and with three children, attributes his success to education: “My parents spent what little they had taking me to Maristas. It is the opportunity for the people of the neighborhood, ”says Elías, who does not hide — rather shows — his class status. “IM very polygon, and I am proud. The important thing is to keep your word. And there are a lot of guys in a suit and tie who don’t comply ”.

Another promise led him to change his surname. For most of his life, he was José Barrios (he carried the surname of a partner of his mother). There are friends who still call him that The Neighborhoods. Five years ago, after a demonic legal battle, a judge agreed to replace his last name with that of his father, Elías. “I had promised my father, before he died, that he would bear his surname.” Rosa González, who is his right-hand man at Audax, emphasizes that he is a person of his word. “If you make a commitment, you comply,” he says from the seventh floor of the group’s offices in the Les Guixeres de Badalona industrial estate, with plenty of natural light and views of the sea.

Rosa’s portrait of Elías is that of a spontaneous, politically incorrect, intense type; with ideas and great mental agility, but precisely because of that he gets bored easily. And that requires commitment. In the old offices, when Audax was far from its current market value (951,029 million euros) there were “famous phrases” from the partners. Elías’s, González says, was just “find your life.” Elías is a pilot and a fan of architecture: his latest acquisition is a cataloged house (now abandoned) that will be the visible face of the group and is in the center of Badalona, ​​near the museum and the town hall. A knock on the table of the neighborhood boy used to the existence of two cities in one, divided by the highway: above, the periphery; below, the “BTV, the badalonins of a lifetime, ”he says.

The notoriety of Elías with his approach to the Barça world is noticeable in the office. An employee hangs up the phone and shares with her colleagues: “It is the topic of the day. People keep calling me asking me if I’m going to have tickets for the Camp Nou ”, he smiles. The businessman, who this Wednesday afternoon attended the inauguration of Laporta that he has made possible with his money, believes that he will remain in the background because he will not be part of the board of directors. “The idea was only, from the beginning, to support Eduard.” However, he does not rule out some type of direct participation in a club to which, from now on, he has publicly linked his name and that of his company.

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